October 20th marks World Osteoporosis Day
How do you prevent a ‘silent’ disease like osteoporosis? In 2020, presenter Mary Kennedy became the ambassador for the Irish Osteoporosis Society, committed to raising awareness. And it’s a role she decided to resume this year. In Ireland, it is thought that up to 300,000 people have osteoporosis. Though it is more common in women who have gone through menopause, it also occurs in men and children. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in fragile bones that can break easily. There is often little warning, which makes prevention and early detection so important.
Mary recently turned 67 and has always had an interest in staying healthy and fit. “That’s something that’s been very important to me.” She says she has seen people whose lives have been impacted by a lack of bone health “you know breaking a wrist, breaking a hip.” This is something she considers preventable, and as a result, campaigns to get her message out into the world. She estimates that last year’s osteoporosis campaign was hugely successful, “People took it on board and said, why am I not facing up to this?”
For Mary, campaigning with the IOS is about raising awareness of mental health and physical health aspects of the condition. But also about empowering women to take charge of their bone health. She herself makes an effort “for the five a day” and to get out and exercise regularly, jogging four to five times a week.
“You don’t know you have it until you have it”
As osteoporosis is more common in women after menopause, this is something Mary wants all women to bear in mind. “The fact is estrogen levels lower after menopause and you are more susceptible to a lack of bone density. You don’t know you have it until you have it.” As such, maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and screening your bone density early can make a huge difference.
The Irish Osteoporosis Society is dedicated to helping people assess their risk. Its goal is to raise awareness about the factors and symptoms involved in someone with the condition. It is important to stay informed, and the best course of action is to speak with your own healthcare provider.
The campaign’s ambassador adds that those in the 65+ age cohort “have less time in front of us than we have already lived. And I just think it’s a shame to waste any of it with something that can be treated and that can be prevented.” The “golden years” don’t have to be spent grappling with breaks and fractures. And that is something Mary and the Osteoporosis Society want to make clear. By eating well, doing regular checkups with your GP, and exercising safely, you can prevent osteoporosis. More importantly, you can maintain strong healthy bones into your 70s and beyond.